After the “Dominion Dash” meet, (from left) Jessica Landram, Caroline Bass, Avery Casey, Abby Rice, Natalie Gunnels, Faira Fenton and Josephine Janus celebrate a hardearned victory.
photo by Your Spirit Photography
Overlooked and underestimated, the 2022 girls cross country team is defying limitations. The strong team of ten girls has claimed the title of champion at every meet and plans to advance their winning streak to state. In addition to personal records, the team continues to break school records, as well.
At “The Stonehaven Stampede” meet, the girls’ team became the first in TKA history to win with a perfect score of 15, meaning the top five finishers at the meet were all Knights’ runners. This team is also the only one to win first place at a large public school meet with two top ten finishers, freshman Faira Fenton and junior, Helena Vassilou.
“This girls team has been to five meets this season and won all five,” Coach Bass said. “As a team, the girls like to say they are 5-0. Undefeated!”
The mental toughness required for such success is a skill learned through hours of hard work and practice. Harder practices produce stronger meet performances.
“Cross country is really more of a mental sport than anything,” Fenton said. “I’ve learned to push through the toughest of challenges with a more grateful attitude.”
Though many would consider cross country an individual sport, this team argues that their teammates are what pushes them to succeed. Sophomore Jessica Landram and freshman Fenton believe their personal victories can be credited to the overall hard work of the team.
“I think our team has been so successful because we all, coaches included, work for each other so we can get better together and not for ourselves,” Fenton said.
After dramatically improving her time by seven minutes this season, Jessica Landram has contributed to the team by placing in the top 10 at several meets.
“Everyone has something different to bring to the table, and we all work hard to push each other and cheer each other on to reach our goals,” Landram said. “We all run hard, work hard, and as a result, we’re all friends united for a common goal.”
The new coaching duo, Coach Caleb Bass and Coach Brandi Fenton, believe in the hard work and determination of their girls and push them to conquer their mental obstacles.
“[Our] biggest message to the team for the rest of the season has been to focus on positivity and encouragement and just to have fun out there,” Coach Bass said. “This kind of team is a very special team and we are very blessed to be able to coach these girls. The sky’s the limit for them.”
Amidst the many team victories, there have been countless personal wins this season. Senior Natalie Gunnels has taken the coaches’ wisdom to heart and focused on a positive mindset.
“I’ve seen personal growth by the multitude of injuries I’ve had,” Gunnels said. “I’ve seen how important determination and positive thinking are when things aren’t going so great. I’ve become super determined to heal and become faster before state.”
The girl’s cross country team prepares for the rest of the season with personal goals, unity through encouragement and a competitive determination to win as a team.
“All 25 runners on the team [boys and girls] consider the team one big family,” Coach Bass said. “We celebrate everyone’s personal records and team awards as one team.”